MBF: Man's Best Friend (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Paul Landings retired from the military after a disability prevented his further service, so now he works at a dog shelter and takes in dogs who have no homes. However, his practices draw ire from locals, and several troublemakers set fire to his house with the dogs still in it. Affected by PTSD, Landings commits a crime in revenge for his dogs and finds himself embroiled in a lawsuit charged with local politics. Will he be able to be set free from the bondage both in his head and in his life?

Production Quality (2 points)

For the most part, the production of Man’s Best Friend is respectable, including good video, camera, and audio qualities. While the sets, locations, and props are mostly well-chosen, there is some inconsistent lighting in the indoor sets. However, the outside locations are better, and these issues overall improve as the film progresses. Elsewhere, the soundtrack is acceptable, and the editing is a bit odd at types although it is mostly fine. In the end, this is an above average production that could have been a little better due to the year it was made.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

The opening sequences of MBF are a bit of a drag for the viewer since they are drawn out and full of stock footage and vague voiceover that both isolates the audience and wastes valuable time. However, once it gets to the substantial parts of the plot, there are actually some good explorations of how warfare effects people after the military and how one’s life can be greatly altered by the service. Nonetheless, there are a number of problems in this narrative’s character department, beginning with the fact that most of the ‘bad’ characters are total strawmen who hate the main character for no particular reason, are unrealistically anti-military, and are generally annoying. At the same time, the military characters are painted in perfect lights as they create a very odd dichotomy that tries to force the viewer to choose between the importance of a paralyzed character’s life and the lives of dogs that died in a fire. There are either perfect victim characters (though it’s not clear how some of them are actually victims) or highly corrupt small town characters, which is likely realistic in many contexts but is too over the top for this situation. Moreover, the storyline provides both a realistic look at post-war trauma and a hard examination of corruption in small towns, but many audiences may find the premise to be a bit dark and without significant hope or redemption. Elsewhere, the judge seems unnecessarily biased toward the protagonist, and some of the characters attempt to nearly justify the paralysis-inducing crime that is on trial. Dialogue is inconsistently used for information dumps, and a lot of the characters feel unfinished as they tend to crowd each other out for screen time. Also, there is some inappropriate language throughout the plot, and the ending is a bit hard to follow. Overall, much like this creative team’s previous efforts at crafting complex suspense situations (Wild Faith), MBF tries to interest the viewer in legal intrigue mixed with military drama, but there are just too many issues with this concept to justify any points for this section.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While many of the cast members of MBF tend to force their lines and their emotional deliveries in the beginning, the performances as a whole improve as the film progress. The most significantly positive aspect is the fact that DJ Perry posts an extremely memorable and groundbreaking performance as he becomes a character unlike any other he’s previously played and transforms himself for a very difficult role. This element is very impressive and is one of the main bright spots in this otherwise flawed project. Thus, this rounds out an overall above average acting effort that could have been slightly better.

Conclusion

Man’s Best Friend, like many of this creative team’s past projects, had a lot going for it, but it didn’t quite make it past the finish line. Perry, Hagedorn, Teaster, Hornus, and the rest had a lot of momentum following Wild Faith and The Christ Slayer, but MBF tends to blunt this success with its confusing messaging and dark focus. However, Perry’s breakout performance is a key bright spot that gives renewed hope for the future, so it will be interesting to see what this collective produces next.

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

M.B.F. (coming in 2020)

Coming in 2020 from Collective Development Incorporated

Writer(s): DJ Perry

Director(s): Anthony Hornus

Producer(s): Melissa Anschutz, Debbie Thomey Bennett, Deborah Bennett
David Gries, Shane Hagedorn, Anthony Hornus, Rebecca Lawlor, John Mashni, DJ Perry, Nathan K. Robertson, Dean Teaster

Starring: Don Most, Tim Abell, DJ Perry, Melissa Anschutz, Christine Marie Dean Teaster, Garry Nation, Kimberly Harsch, Shane Hagedorn, Sammy A. Publes, Robert Henline, John DeMarco, David Gries, Lauren LaStrada
David Michael Reardon, Austin Two Feathers, Walker Fairbanks
Robert Bradley, Greg Mason, Anthony Hornus

Plot summary: An engaging tale that shows the parallels between the treatment of wounded military veterans and ‘last chance’ shelter dogs.

Like Arrows: The Art of Parenting (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Charlie and Alice began their parenting journey sooner than they expected, but they quickly adapted to their new life as a family, even as their family continued to grow.  They encountered many different struggles and challenges as their family dynamic changed and expanded, but they always did their best to rely on wisdom from God in their parenting.  However, when they reached a breaking point one day, their wise friends invited them to a church conference that helped them fix all of their mistakes and begin building a lasting legacy!

 

Production Quality (2 points)

On the surface, Like Arrows has a decent enough production, which is no doubt due to the consultation of the Kendrick Brothers.  This is evident in good camera work, crisp video quality, and mostly fine sets, locations, and props.  Unfortunately, audio quality is quite up to par as many lines are difficult to discern; however, the soundtrack is mostly fine.  While most scenes are well-lit, there are some head-scratching moments of poor lighting with little to no explanation.  Further, it goes without saying that the major detractor of this production is the atrocious editing, which can mostly be blamed on the ridiculous amount of content that is shoved into this film.  On the whole, this production is fine and passable, but the issues with Like Arrows go much deeper.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This ‘movie’ was originally a collection of skit clips to accompany FamilyLife’s new curriculum called The Art of Parenting.  It’s painfully obvious that this choppy and rough presentation of random ideas was borne out of these beginnings.  What begins as a semi-interesting storyline quickly descends into a roller coaster of content that takes the viewer from one high point to the next at breakneck pace.  The audience is dropped into a moment in time to look at one spoon-fed issue that needs to be highlighted, and just as soon as the sequence began, it comes to a predictable conclusion as the audience is prepared to zoom forward in time to another ‘important’ tidbit from FamilyLife’s outdated worldview that needs to be included.  This wild ride wreaks havoc on any hope of character development as dialogue is stilted and programmed based on what the ministry needed to push to whoever may watch this mess.  This section is only saved from nothingness by a semi-effective final scene that has absolutely no build-up or justification due to the fact that nobody knows who the characters even are at that point even as more characters are constantly introduced.  Also, it goes without saying that the FamilyLife product placements are vomit-inducing.  Essentially, Kevin Peeples was saddled with the impossible task of trying to force a collection of worldview-heavy curriculum skits to be a continuous and understandable screenplay.  No one should have been expected to pull this off since, based on the content provided, the task was a losing one to begin with.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting of this ‘film’ is very uneven.  Alan Powell has had better performances, and a lot of the cast members seem lost and unsupported by coaching.  However, it’s not like they had any good lines to work with in the first place.  Also, the sheet number of cast members required for the constantly changing ages (with the exception of the parents) causes a lot of confusion and extra work for directing.  Once the parent cast members are finally changed (there is a point when they seem like the same age as their adult children) and once other professional cast members are brought on (Alex Kendrick, Garry Nation, etc.), the acting actually improves for the final sequence.  However, it’s simply not enough to save this film from itself.

Conclusion

Space does not permit a full discussion on the myriad issues actually present in this film, including the mindless and patronizing treatment of women (what do you expect?), the trippy ‘futuristic’ elements in the final sequence, and the general lack of regard for understanding the struggles of real people.  This film claims to show real people doing real things, but it actually demonstrates just how far out of touch FamilyLife really is.  Did I mention how horrible their product placements are?  Implying that a family is totally fixed by going to your conference and buying your merchandise is the height of arrogance and is extremely tone-deaf.  Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that this film will make any lasting impact.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

My Grandpa Detective (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Robert Whitmore III was just awarded a prestigious police award and promoted to lead detective, a role that used to be held by his famous grandfather, Robert Whitmore Sr.  However, Bob III’s world is rocked when he discovers that his new partner is none other than his grandfather, who has been pressed back into service by the force for retiring too early to collect his pension.  Together, they will have to get along to catch a notorious criminal who has come back to town with the goal of stealing the coveted Bronze Basin of Bitterness.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Surprisingly, the production of this film is not as bad as the rest of it.  All the usual elements, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality, are fine and professional.  There are really no glaring errors here.  The soundtrack is a bit silly, which is to be somewhat expected for a comedy like this.  Sets, locations, and props are average and passable, except for the fact that some unusual props are constantly emphasized.  Also, as usual for this sort of film, the editing is somewhat poor and disorienting.  In the end, this production is the best component of this film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

My Grandpa Detective is one of the most nonsensical ‘comedy’ plots since The Takeover.  Besides having absolutely no purpose and being completely aimless, this film has an extremely absurd feel to it that includes a lot of head-scratching and deadpan-inducing moments and sequences.  There is no way to understand what is trying to be communicated in this film as a collection of very eccentric and bizarre characters fumble around, looking for a reason to keep this film going.  The premise is very trumped up and the Christian message is very forced and awkward.  Nearly every line of dialogue is stupidity, thus making the storyline impossible to take seriously.  There are also a lot of cliqued mystery tropes and a predictable ending to top things off.  Essentially, the creators of this film were either confused, delusional, or purposely satirical.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Besides the fact that several cast members are made to look much older than they are, nearly all of the acting in this cast is as absurd as the plot.  Everyone seems intent on making a fool of themselves with childish emotions and outbursts, as well as poor line delivery.  In the end, most elements in this film are completely ridiculous.

Conclusion

Why are Christian films like this still being made in 2016?  What does this sort of movie accomplish, outside of making a further mockery of Christian movies?  True comedy takes well-developed characters and realistic, witty dialogue, not all of the raving nonsense you find in My Grandpa Detective.  Alas, this is another embarrassment and one that should be forgotten, unless you need to know how not to make a movie.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Chasing the Star (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Prompted by the celestial sign of the star, three Magi set out from their homeland to the land of Israel to discover the promised Messiah.  Each of them had their own backstory and struggles and they faced many trials and roadblocks along the way, mostly the attempted sabotage of the evil King Herod.  They also experienced spiritual warfare and spiritual awakening as a result of their journey across the desert, and they were never the same again.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Though there are a lot of attempts in Chasing the Star to be a professional production, there are also some issues that hold it back from being all that it could be.  Video quality and outdoor lighting are great, but there is some random shaky cam for dramatic effect that puts a damper on things.  However, audio quality is fine and the soundtrack is intriguing.  Outdoor locations are very well constructed and utilized, yet indoor sets and props are cheap-looking and limited.  Finally, the editing makes the film very disorienting and confusing as the plot jumps all around.  In the end, this is a good effort, but it seems like more could have been done.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously mentioned, this story tends to jump all over the place in a very confusing fashion that leaves the audiences isolated.  There is also a lot of cryptic, archaic, and even cumbersome dialogue that causes the characters to come off as stuffy and Shakespearean.  A lot of content is also very vague and hard to understand, although there are some interesting psychological elements.  This story tends to be overly artistic, but the use of spiritual elements is better than that of Forty Nights, even if they are still portrayed as too dramatic and sensational.  It’s great to explore spiritual warfare, but not enough time is spent on real and meaningful content, although there are some good attempts to develop the Magi through flashbacks.  Yet it’s still hard to access them as people due to their dialogue.  However, the last ten minutes of this film improve a lot and almost make the experience worthwhile.  Nonetheless, there are still a lot of improvements to be made here.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Similar to Forty Nights, some of these cast members act downright creepy, while others are simply too dramatic or too stuffy in their delivery.  There are too many reminders of a Bible play in this film, yet there is sometimes okay acting, especially from Garry Nation.  The costuming is a bit unusual at times, but it tends to work.  Overall, much of this movie is a mixed bag.

Conclusion

Chasing the Star is another unfortunate waste of an interesting idea.  We desperately need creative Bible stories that are focused on spiritual and psychological elements, but not like this.  They need to have slightly improved production and deeper character development in order to be worthwhile.  Yet DJ Perry and his team appear to be improving with each film they make, so it’s possible that they are on the verge of something great.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Polycarp: Destroyer of Gods (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Polycarp was a great Christian who led the church at Smyrna in the second century just as the Roman Empire was becoming more radicalized and hostile towards Christians.  When a couple in his church rescues a young slave girl named Anna, Polycarp takes a personal interest in her, as he was also rescued as a slave boy.  As times become tumultuous for Christians, Polycarp seeks to lead his flock to always be strong in the Lord and to stand firm in the day of trouble.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

It is evident that the Henline Productions team cares about historical authenticity, as a great amount of time, effort, and resources were put into the realistic sets and props of Polycarp.  This is difficult for an independent film to pull off, yet they did it anyway.  Camera work is highly effective and professional.  Video and audio quality are also top-notch.  However, the soundtrack needs an upgrade, as it rarely can be heard.  Also, the editing needs to be worked on, since some scenes drag on too long and there are too many seemingly unnecessary or repetitive sequences.  But in the end, this is an excellent place to begin for a freshman production and gives great hope for the future.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The plot of Polycarp starts out with an excellent historical idea, however, it wastes too much time getting to the point.  The first half struggles to hold the attention and we fear many viewers will give up on it halfway through.  However, once the second half of the movie begins, the real meat of the story is finally uncovered and things become interesting.  The characters are pretty good throughout, especially at the end, but we would have liked to see more development and deepening.  There is plenty of interesting and meaningful dialogue, but not all of it builds the characters as it should.  But as everything progresses, the ending sequences are very effective and drive the point home well—we hope the audience will stay until the end, because it is worth it.  In the end, though we can’t help but think what could have been, this is a formidable effort and shows potential for the future.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Though this is a largely amateur cast, most of the cast members deliver solid performances with few errors to speak of.  Line delivery is on point and emotions are believable.  The main thing that drags this score down is very over-the-top acting by one or two cast members that perhaps took their parts too seriously.  But overall, like the rest of this film, this is an excellent start to a budding career.

Conclusion

The story of Polycarp the bishop and martyr is a long and complex one, and the Henline team obviously did not have the resources to fully capture it in an epic, but it still may be worth doing in the future.  There are so many things the Henline team can do with more resources, so we pray that they are provided with what they need to take that next step into greatness.  With slight production upgrades, a more complex plot, and slightly better acting coaching, they are going to go places.  We know they have the ability to do so and can’t wait to see what comes next from their studio.

 

Final Rating: 5.5 out of 10 points

 

 

Full disclosure: We were provided by the creator with a copy of this film in exchange for a fair and honest review

 

Indescribable (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Blynn Lehman is just one of nine children in a second generation immigrant German family, living in California during the early days of World War I.  Times are hard, and his pastor father must take on extra work in order to make ends meet.  Blynn’s older brother has been drafted into the war, and Blynn’s father grows more frustrated by the day as he tries to write a song about the love of God.  Blynn becomes determined to help his father finish the song so that it will bring their family needed income.  In order to do so, he and his siblings begin to explore the origins of a mysterious Jewish poem that will take them further than they ever imagined.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

First off, Indescribable has good video and sound quality, but unfortunately, this is the extent of its positive production elements.  The film contains amateur camera angles, which can be slightly forgiven due to its microscopic budget.  However, the editing is all over the map, including unnecessary filler scenes and awkward cuts to historical flashbacks and fantasies.  The sets are very cheap.  There is also bad makeup and costuming; however, much of this can be overlooked for the sake of its budget.  Yet this begs the question: with such a small budget, was this movie worth making?

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The idea behind the plot has some interesting potential, but due to the wasted time and confusing flashbacks\fantasies, the original point is eventually lost.  This movie is based on true events, and Box Office Revolution realizes that it is attempting to be realistic in its day by day feel, but it just comes off as amateurish.  Some of the scenes are downright head-scratching as to why they are even included.  Much of the dialogue is unfortunately childish, thus making for odd character development.  There is an uncanny worldview undertone to the plot that cannot be quantified, except to say that it feels like a vague point about Christian-Jewish historical relations is trying to be impressed upon the viewers.

Acting Quality (0 points)

There is no acting coaching whatsoever.  It seems like a lot of the actors have been pressed into service with no backup.  The emotional delivery is unbelievable and goes over the heads of the audience.  Most of the actors are overly practiced and extremely stiff, and they commit out of place actions with no warning.  In short, some amateur acting can be forgiven, but the blame for this cast must fall upon the movie’s creators, since many of these people are being expected to play parts they have not been properly prepared for.

Conclusion

The Christian movie scene is full of good intentions.  Indescribable is a well-meaning movie about an important topic.  It could have been a truly intriguing historical plot, but it simply falls short.  Once again, funding of independent Christian films is a huge issue, but with a budget this small, the creators should have thought twice about forcing it to happen.  If one wants to get started in independent Christian film making, short films is probably the best route to begin on.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points